Category: PASS General

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Allan Hirt

July 21, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Allan Hirt takes us inside his Pre-Con, “Advanced SQL Server Availability Architectures and Deployments”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Allan: When I grew up and started collecting comic books, I was more drawn to the DC characters, specifically Batman. He is a guy who is a mere mortal, yet can outwit and has the strength to stand up to people who have powers that could literally crush him. I think that is the challenge a lot of DBAs and IT workers face. We are given some parameters and limitations and have to make magic happen. More often than not, we can. I think we are at our best when we think outside the box.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Allan: During college, I was an intern at SQL Solutions in Burlington, MA; it was bought out by Sybase while I was there. So I started using SQL Server in the pre-Windows days—I even remember helping someone install Windows NT 3.5. My internship was with the QA folks, so testing has and continues to be intrinsic to what I do. But the obvious link from then to now is the fact that I was exposed to relational databases so early. I have always been more interested in the infrastructure side of things, even before my internship (which involved that stuff). But I was lucky in my career path to be exposed to things like clustering fairly early into my career, which clearly had a profound impact on who I am today.

I would say that to become an expert, the key to success is to follow your passion and keep learning. You will hopefully have good mentors along the way. Do not be afraid to fail or make mistakes.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Allan: The Windows platform has a lot of cool things that are prevalent in the non-SQL Server world, such as Scale Out File Server and Windows’ native ability to use RDMA. Such things could be used for SQL Server but are not. If DBAs understood what lies under the hood a bit more, I think we would see more innovative solutions. I will be talking a bit about those kinds of things throughout my Pre-Conference session, “Advanced SQL Server Availability Architectures and Deployments”.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Allan: The two biggest mistakes I see are:

· Not understanding what it is you are implementing. That leads to a lot of assumptions and bad decisions in architecture, which ultimately results in bad solutions.

· Not doing the basics well. You cannot have a good availability solution if you are terrible at, say, backups. If you start from a solid foundation, your chances of succeeding at the more advanced stuff increases significantly.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Allan: There’s plenty that can trip all of us up, expert or not; too many things to list. That said, I think that because SQL Server is such a deep and broad product, there is some aspect of it for nearly anyone who is interested in databases, whether BI or relational. That by no means equates to queries and data itself. Sure, I’ve done a lot of that over the years, but the infrastructure side is a whole other aspect of SQL Server that many people do not dabble in—but is immensely rewarding.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Allan: I truly believe that people learn better by doing than by just seeing slides and demos. As with my Pre-Con session at Summit 2014—which sold out, so don’t wait to register this year; the number of students is capped—everyone will get hands-on experience via lab exercises designed specifically for that day. Each attendee will access, via a browser, their own set of virtual machines (VMs), which simulate a full working environment (domain controller, cluster nodes, and so on). I know many attendees will want to try the labs again and will most likely not have time during Summit to do that, so my plan is to provide access for at least a few days post-Summit so that you can do them again back home.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

Future of PASS Summit: Conference Location Through 2019

July 21, 2015 — The location of future PASS Summit conferences was a topic of discussion at the June 2015 PASS Board of Directors meeting. Currently, we’ve booked the Washington State Convention and Trade Center as the PASS Summit venue through 2018. A time-limited opportunity was presented to us to continue that booking for an additional year—2019—with a decision required by June 15.

In 2013, we moved PASS Summit to Charlotte, North Carolina. Our main intention was to determine whether hosting the conference in a different state would make it more accessible to PASS members who might not have been able to travel to Seattle.

While changing cities at some point in the future isn’t out of the question, the Board noted that staying in Seattle offered two important benefits:
· Extending our venue agreement for the additional year offers significant savings over the length of our multi-year contract with the Convention and Trade Center.
· Holding the conference in Seattle results in a stronger exhibitor presence, particularly in regards to Microsoft. Community members and attendees have greater opportunity to interaction with members of the Microsoft product teams.

Considering these benefits, the Board voted to keep PASS Summit in Seattle for 2019.

PASS NomCom Elections

This past Thursday, July 16, 2015, PASS opened voting for the 2015 Nomination Committee (NomCom). Voting is open through noon PDT July 21. PASS members who are eligible to vote will each have received an email with a Vote Now button that enables them to cast their ballot for this NomCom election. 

In preparation for this voting period, PASS has sent multiple communications and ran multiple deduplication procedures to meet our Governance standards and ensure the following:
• We confirmed with each PASS member with a completed profile as of June 1, 2015, their eligibility to vote. 
• Each eligible voter may only cast one ballot.

As you might be aware, on the first day of our NomCom elections we had some communication and technical difficulties with our third party email software. Firstly we want to assure you that the election is not compromised by these matters. Only eligible voters will be able to cast a ballot, and they won’t be able to vote a second time with identified duplicate profiles. 

Having said that, in all matters within PASS, full transparency is one of our core tenets. Therefore, we want to update you on the timeline of events:

• One hour before the ballot was scheduled to open, we learned that a scheduling glitch in our communications software had resulted in ballot emails being sent one hour earlier than expected. As soon as we were made aware of this, we opened the NomCom ballot so that members could vote. Opening the NomCom ballot early did not compromise the validity or security of the vote. Some members who tried to vote prior to the ballot opening may have experienced some confusion during that short period of time. Where possible, we reached out to these members via email or social media to let them know that the ballot was now open. We also posted a notice on social media that balloting was indeed open and that anyone who had not been granted voting access should try again. At no time did this result in individuals being able to vote more than once.

• Soon afterward, we became aware that the address list that had been used to send the ballot notifications was not the correct, finalized list.  Approximately 1,800 community members received emails to their non-voting, duplicate member profiles indicating that they could now vote. In this case, we want to reassure our community members that even though emails were sent to these duplicate profiles, they are still ineligible to vote.  Our voting system, Simply Voting, will not recognize them as eligible. Again, this issue did not compromise the election but might have caused some confusion for those members who received the emails. We have sent follow-up communications to all members who were affected by this issue.

In response to these events, we have taken several steps to further ensure the integrity of the elections and to prevent such issues with the upcoming Board of Directors elections:

• In both situations, we have communicated with the affected PASS members to confirm that those who are eligible to vote have received the necessary link and can access their ballot.

• We have confirmed that the integrity of the voting process is intact and that only eligible members can vote and that they can vote only once.

• We are taking steps to address both the software and human causes of these issues, to ensure that future communication scheduling is error-free. 

I want to thank you all for your patience and encourage those of you who are eligible, to vote in the 2015 NomCom election. Voting is open through noon PDT, July 21. We thank those who submitted an application to serve on the NomCom, as well as those who participate in this election. If you have any further feedback or questions, please email us.

Denise McInerney
VP of Marketing, PASS Board of Directors 


SQLRally Update

July 13--For the past six months we have been reviewing the events PASS runs and supports. We’ve evaluated the benefits our events provide the PASS community, focusing on how these benefits align with PASS’s mission. During this time, we found that the goals for SQLSaturday and SQLRally are similar, with those goals being to:

· Promote PASS community growth by supporting opportunities worldwide to connect, share, and learn with fellow data professionals

· Promote the growth of speakers and leaders throughout our community

· Provide the opportunity for local-language content

PASS offers numerous opportunities for both community networking and in-depth technical training in-person and online with events such as SQLSaturday, 24 Hours of PASS, and virtual and local chapters. Through the efforts of our dedicated volunteers, the SQLSaturday event has seen remarkable growth globally, supporting technical training opportunities at a regional level. There were 98 SQLSaturday events in FY2015, compared to 36 events in FY2011, the first year SQLRally was introduced.

These facts led us to look again at the SQLRally event model and the benefits it has been providing to the global PASS Community.

SQLRally was aimed to provide technical content and an event experience between what was offered at a SQLSaturday event and what was offered at the PASS Summit. However, as SQLSaturday events have grown in popularity and add-on features such as pre-conference days have been introduced, they have become better suited as the event model to meet the benefits outlined earlier.

As a result, we have voted to retire the global SQLRally brand and event model.

The resources we have been investing in global SQLRally events can then be reinvested into other models with similar community outreach. In the coming days, we will distribute a survey to all SQLSaturday event organizers in an effort to better understand the opportunities that exist in enhancing the current SQLSaturday model. We will continue to use similar surveys to evaluate the needs of our global community in an ongoing effort to better provide the full breadth and depth of education and training for the data professionals that make up our membership.

If you have any questions or feedback, or if you would like to participate in this survey, let us know. It’s our goal to provide the best resources and training for PASS members.

Thomas LaRock
PASS President

PASS da la Bienvenida a los LATAM Regional Board Advisors

03 de julio 2015--Como Presidente del Comité de Crecimiento Global de PASS me complace presentar a nuestros dos nuevos consejeros de Junta Directiva para la región de América Latina (LATAM): Eduardo Castro de Costa Rica y Diego Nogare de Brasil. Eduardo y Diego fueron nombrados por un plazo de un año (hasta el 2 de junio de 2016) por el PASS Board of Directors, y ayudarán para que PASS aumente el apoyo a los profesionales de datos en toda la comunidad mundial.

Eduardo y Diego fueron identificados como asesores de la región de LATAM debido a su larga trayectoria y el servicio que brinda en sus comunidades locales de PASS. Ambos han organizado eventos SQLSaturday extremadamente exitosos en sus respectivos países; y sus capítulos locales están prosperando. Como MVP, tanto Eduardo como Diego tienen relaciones comunitarias fuertes, así como un conocimiento en profundidad de las fortalezas y desafíos que son específicas de sus comunidades locales de SQL Server.

Este nombramiento es el último paso en las iniciativas de Global Growth Initiatives de PASS, las cuales iniciaron en el año 2011 con el nombramiento de tres asesores internacionales en la Junta Directiva y se realizaron nuevos avances en 2013 con la introducción de puesto en la Junta Directiva para la región de Europa, Medio Este y Africa (EMEA). Como parte de estas iniciativas, una de las metas del PASS para el año fiscal 2015 ha sido la de establecer una base sólida en la región de LATAM. Nuestro objetivo es apoyar a la comunidad global a través de programas que ayuden a los miembros PASS de habla hispana y portuguesa. Esta meta es sólo una parte de nuestra visión de expandir los beneficios y eventos de PASS a nivel global.

En los próximos meses, los nuevos asesores regionales se reunirán regularmente con nuestro Comité de Crecimiento Global y participarán en las reuniones de Junta Directiva de PASS. Juntos, van a trabajar con PASS para comunicar las necesidades de sus comunidades y para desarrollar y proporcionar los mejores recursos para la región de LATAM. Estamos encantados de contar su ayuda a medida que que planeamos maneras de ofrecer el mejor apoyo, eventos y recursos para la comunidad mundial de datos.

Por favor, únanse a mí para felicitar a Diego y Eduardo en sus nuevas funciones.

Adam Jorgensen
EVP, Finance & Governance, PASS Board of Directors 

PASS dá as Boas Vindas aos LATAM Regional Board Advisors

03 de julho de 2015--Como presidente do comitê de crescimento global do PASS eu tenho o prazer de anunciar nossos dois novos Regional Board Advisors para América Latina (LATAM): Eduardo Castro, da Costa Rica, e Diego Nogare, do Brasil. Eduardo e Diego foram nomeados por um ano (até 2 de Junho de 2016) pelo PASS Board of Directors, e ajudarão o PASS a continuar o crescimento e suporte à profissionais de dados nas comunidades globais.

Eduardo e Diego foram identificados como assessores para a região de LATAM por seu longo histórico e serviços para as comunidades locais do PASS. Ambos tem organizado eventos do SQLSaturdays com extremo sucesso em seus respectivos países; seus capítulos locais estão prosperando. Como MVPs, tanto Eduardo quanto Diego possuem forte relacionamento com a comunidade, como também um entendimento profundo dos pontos fortes e dos desafios que são pertinentes para suas comunidades locais de SQL Server.

Esta nomeação é o mais recente passo das iniciativas de crescimento global do PASS que foram lançadas em 2011 com a nomeação de três assessores do comitê internacional e fez mais avanços em 2013 com a inclusão de um assento da região Europa, Oriente Médio e Africa (EMEA) no Conselho Administrativo. Como parte contínua destas iniciativas, um dos objetivos do PASS para o ano fiscal de 2015 foi estabelecer uma base sólida na região de LATAM. Nosso objetivo é apoiar as comunidades globais de SQL Server através de programas que sirvam membros do PASS de língua espanhola e portuguesa. Esta meta é apenas uma parte de nossa visão para expandir os benefícios e eventos do PASS em todo o mundo.

Ao longo dos próximos meses os novos assessores regionais irão se reunir regularmente com o comitê de crescimento global e também nas reuniões do conselho. Juntos irão trabalhar com o PASS para comunicar as necessidades de suas comunidades locais e para ajudar o PASS a desenvolver e fornecer melhores recursos para a região de LATAM. Estamos felizes em contar com esta ajuda no objetivo de oferecer o melhor apoio, realização de eventos e recursos para a comunidade mundial de dados.

Por favor, junte-se a mim para parabenizar Diego e Eduardo em suas novas funções.

Adam Jorgensen
EVP, Finance & Governance, PASS Board of Directors 

PASS Welcomes LATAM Regional Board Advisors

July 3, 2015--As Chair of PASS’s Global Growth Committee I am pleased to introduce our two new regional board advisors for the Latin America (LATAM) region: Eduardo Castro, from Costa Rica, and Diego Nogare, from Brazil. Eduardo and Diego, who were appointed to one year terms (through June 2, 2016) by the PASS Board of Directors, will help PASS continue to grow our support for data professionals throughout the global community.

Eduardo and Diego were identified as advisors to the LATAM region because of their long history and service in their local PASS communities. Both gentlemen have hosted extremely successful SQLSaturday events in their respective countries; their local chapters are thriving. As MVPs, both Eduardo and Diego have strong community relationships, as well as an in-depth understanding of the strengths and challenges that are specific to their local SQL Server communities.

This appointment is the latest step in PASS’s Global Growth Initiatives, which were launched in 2011 with the appointment of three international board advisors and made further strides in 2013 with the introduction of an earmarked Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) seat on the Board of Directors. As part of these initiatives, one of PASS’s goals for FY2015 has been to establish a strong foundation in the LATAM region. We aim to support the global SQL community through programs that serve Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking PASS members. This goal is just one part of our vision to expand PASS’s benefits and events worldwide.

Over the next several months, the new regional advisors will meet regularly with our Global Growth Committee and will join Board meetings. Together, they will work with PASS to communicate the needs of their communities and to help PASS develop and provide the best resources for the LATAM Region. We are thrilled to have their help as we plan ways to offer for the best support, events, and resources for worldwide the data community.

Please join me in congratulating Diego and Eduardo on their new roles.

Adam Jorgensen
EVP, Finance & Governance, PASS Board of Directors

PASS and Business Analytics: A Winning Combination

June 29, 2015--The results are in and the PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC) 2015 was a success! At the recent Board meeting this month, the PASS Board reviewed the outcomes of this event and discussed the future of PASS Business Analytics (BA). A primary goal of the PASS Board of Directors is not just to maintain but to improve the health of our organization and our community. Reaching this goal means offering the best learning environments possible, such as PASS Summit, 24 Hours of PASS, and more. It also means looking beyond today’s landscape and preparing for the future of SQL Server and related data technologies. 
Over the past few years, we’ve watched as companies across all industries embrace data to become more competitive, results-oriented, and data-driven. This has created significant new challenges and opportunities in data analytics and BA. Now, experienced BA and data analytics professionals are in high demand and short supply. And those entering this nascent field are in need of the type of community and learning environment that SQL Server professionals enjoy as PASS members.

This is one of the reasons that we started PASS BAC in 2013. Like most new endeavors, it’s taken a few years to find its bearings. Following PASS BAC 2014, we evolved to support the needs of business and data analysts. This included revamping content and refining our focus within the analyst audience. So we rebooted BAC 2015, tailoring it to focus on those who consume data and use it to drive business decisions. 

With this refined approach, we renewed our focus on providing real-world, applicable learning that can give attendees an immediate and direct means to benefit their organizations—just as PASS Summit provides for DBAs and other data facilitators. We created a conference for people who extract and manipulate data using technologies such as Excel, Power BI, SQL, Hive, and R throughout all the stages in the analytical process. We delivered practical, best practices information, hands-on training, and visionary thought leadership.

Were we successful? Well, 77% of attendees were in our target Analyst audience. Our hands-on lab sessions were overflowing, the Expo Hall was buzzing, and more than half the BA and business intelligence (BI) attendees said that they would recommend the conference to colleagues, noting that we’d delivered “practical/effective training” that was both “inspiring” and “interactive”.

Our audience reported that their primary interests were upgrading their skills and finding a community for continued networking—and we saw that community forming right in front of us. As a result, the PASS BA Planning Committee made several recommendations to the PASS Board of Directors during the Board’s June 2015 meeting: 

* PASS should continue organizing a conference for data and business analysts.
We should continue with our refined approach for PASS BAC 2016.
* We should continue to engage with the BA audience and influencers.
* We should build a coherent development and engagement strategy for this growing community.

The Board agreed. By continuing to invest in PASS BAC and by fostering a community, we can meet the unique needs of business and data analysts. We already have many offerings that serve PASS members who are interested in BA. And we have growing resources and support from willing volunteers. From the Business Analytics and Excel Business Intelligence Virtual Chapters and BA Insights newsletter to webinars, the pieces are in place to support PASS BAC and the growth of our community, including the establishment of an advisory committee and a three-year plan laying out the best way to move forward. 

We are excited about the opportunities and benefits that these decisions will provide for all data professions within the PASS community. If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. And we hope you’ll help us spread the word about this new community to the data and business analysts in your organizations.

- Jen Stirrup
PASS Board Member

PASS Summit 2015 Community Sessions

June 26, 2015--Have you heard the news? We’ve announced the speakers and session lineup for PASS Summit 2015 – and we think it’s the best one yet! Each year, the Program Team has the difficult task of choosing sessions from amongst a wealth of wonderful submissions. I want to tell everyone who submitted this year how much we appreciate the support and dedication of this community.

How We Choose

The program-selection process is a continually fine-tuned process designed to help ensure a fair, objective, and well-balanced program. Program Committee volunteers are assigned to review abstracts, speakers, or PowerPoint decks. Each team has specific duties that help ensure the integrity of our selection process. Scores and ratings are used to determine the top sessions from each track, and we used these to fill the community session slots. We look for a balanced track that contains sessions that represent all the key topics across a variety of skill levels and without a great deal of duplication. We also look for a good mix of both seasoned speakers and new voices. Still have questions about the process, we have a helpful FAQ you page you can refer back to. 

This year, 67 of our volunteers reviewed a total of 886 abstracts. Of those submissions, 20% were chosen for our community sessions, representing 52% of the speakers who submitted. 28% of those speakers will be speaking at PASS Summit for the first time!

Next Steps

Now that the community sessions have been selected, the next step is to open the Microsoft call for speakers. We’ll work with Microsoft to make sure that these submissions complement the community sessions; stay tuned for these sessions to be announced in August.

We’ll also begin constructing learning paths to make it easier for attendees to choose between sessions.  As always, we welcome your feedback on any step of this process.  
Finally, we will work to build the schedule, including partnering with Microsoft and the Program Committee Special Project team of volunteers to utilize data science to predict session attendance and schedule sessions into the appropriate sized rooms and timeslots. You can read more about the success of this additional process last year in Dev Nambi’s blogs: PASS Attendance and Summit Feedback

A Big Thank You 

Once again, thank you to all who submitted—and to all the volunteers who worked so hard these past few months during the selection process, particularly our Program Team Managers Lance Harra, Mindy Curnutt and Angela Henry. 

We can’t wait for you to dive into the lineup for this year’s PASS Summit, the premier event by and for the SQL Server Community. Help us spread the word, and don’t forget to register by July 12 to save $400 on registration—plus contact your Local or Virtual Chapter for an additional $150 savings! See you in Seattle!

– Amy Lewis
PASS Director of Programs

Changes to the 2015 PASS Board Elections

June 24, 2015--The 2014 NomCom was tasked to streamline the process for evaluating candidates as well as to enhance community engagement.

The 2015 elections cycle will highlight those changes.

We’ve expanded the minimum criteria for candidates to identify the skills, experience, and qualifications needed to help set the strategic direction for PASS. Here are the minimum criteria needed for candidates to be considered to move to the interview round:
• Be a current eligible voting member of PASS
• Have direct volunteer experience with PASS
• Work with one of the Microsoft data technologies
• Be free of conflict of interest that would affect eligibility
• Be fluent in written and spoken English
• Agree to the time and travel commitments required to serve on the PASS Board of Directors
• Submit three references with a statement of support

In addition, to enhance community engagement and give voters an opportunity to make a more educated vote, the NomCom has made a change to the way candidates will be weighted and publication of that weighting. If an applicant meets the outlined minimum criteria, they will move to the interview round. Each applicant will then be interviewed based on categories to measure the strength of their candidacy. No overall ranking will be published; instead an aggregate score for each category will be published. This will give the community transparency on the strength of each applicant in each category and will provide more information for members to make an educated vote. Look for the 2015 PASS Board of Directors application August 5 on the PASS Elections page, which will outline all the minimum criteria in more detail. See the full details of the 2014 NomCom changes to the 2015 PASS Board elections here.

2015 NomCom

The NomCom is a five-member committee that manages the PASS Board of Directors elections process, qualifying, interviewing and weighting potential candidates. A final slate is then submitted to the Board for approval.

Immediate Past President Bill Graziano will chair this year’s NomCom, which will include three elected representatives reflecting the three seats up for the PASS Board this year: one EMEA seat, one US/Canada seat, and one open seat. A representative appointed by the PASS Board will round up the committee.

Who’s Eligible to Run?

To be eligible to run for the NomCom, candidates must have a demonstrable track record of volunteering with PASS – such as serving as a Regional Mentor, Chapter or Virtual Chapter Leader, or Program Committee member – and participating in other volunteer endeavors. Note that as an essential part of the PASS Board elections process, the NomCom requires significant time and effort. By applying for the NomCom, applicants agree to the time commitments of the entire general elections process, including Board applicant interviews.